Almost every community, country, religion or culture in the world has its sacred stories or a body of myths which explains their origin as well as that of the world, values, beliefs and operating principles which are supposed to be respected.
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Studies indicate that since time immemorial, mythologies have been accorded maximum respect. Arena (2007) points out in her article that there are two major creation myths. These are the Roman and Greek creation mythologies. It is against this scope that this paper examines the Roman creation myth and how it has been reflected in the history of the Romans.
Arena (2007) posits that the Roman mythology offers two types of creation myths. However, the most common myth indicates that before creation of the heavens, the sea and the earth were made and whatever existed could only be described as lifeless, disorganized and shapeless matter.
The myth further indicates that there were chaos everywhere and massive opposition were witnessed in instances where cold conflicted with hot, dry with wet, light with heavy and soft with hard. Arena further states that out that confusion, a higher force, which the Romans refer to as a god appeared and resolved the conflict (Arena, 2007).
Some of the activities that this god did included separating the heavens from the earth, parting waters to form dry land, detaching the clouds to obtain clear air and ensuring that everything was organized to form a balanced union. Flannery (2006) concurs with Arena’s argument and adds in his article Religions of the ancient world: A Guide that this god resolved the chaotic mass by setting order, putting them into components and organizing them into a harmonious unit.
In addition, Flannery (2006) continues to observe that this god then shaped the earth into a ball and later caused the seas to spread in all directions. The earth was then organized into five zones similar to the organization in heaven which has two regions on the left, two on the right and a central one. This earth was then hanged in the air amidst clouds, mists and thunder bolts. Flannery adds that the Roman god assigned purpose and limits to four winds around the earth and formed stars to shine across the sky during darkness.
Of great importance in the myth was the birth of man. Arena (2007) points out that either god made him from divine seeds and put him on earth or Prometheus used a clump of earth separated from ether to make man in the image of gods. Despite the lack of clarity on who created man, it is important to note from the myth that the man who was created was different from animals in the sense that he gazed up to the heavens and not towards the ground like other animals.
In her publication, Helmer (2006) indicates that certain people believe that the Roman mythology was created in 12th BC after the Asia-Greece War. Aeneus who was a popular and very strong soldier of the Greek army led his team to victory against Asia after which he moved Italy and founded Rome.
He met new gods there and together with his cultural background, formed a mythology that explains the creation of Rome. Another creation myth Helmer points concerns Remus and Romulus who were two Greek men who were products of the relationship between Rhea Silvia, a mortal woman and God Mars.
These two men lived with their uncle after losing their parents but this did not last long since their uncle thought of killing them to assume the power their father possessed. In the conflict, Romulus survived and escaped to a new land which he named Rome (753 BC) and became its King (Helmer, 2006).
It is important to note that like many other societies in the world today, the Romans had their list of deities with each performing a role. Some of them included Apollo the god of music, prophecy and sun; Jupiter, the supreme king; Vulcan, the god of fire and Mithras, the god of light and sun among others. Lin (2010) argues that in the Roman mythology, there were 21 gods who represented not only the earth, but those who lived in it.
This was because these gods related to touchable objects like water and untouchable ones like prosperity, peace, beliefs and feelings. Of all the gods, those with authority over others were Minerva and Jupiter. They also represented imaginations and did not have a physical appearance. Lin continues to indicate that it was until the 6th century BC that the Roman gods were given physical appearances (Lin, 2010).
A figure showing Roman Gods
Since creation, the Romans have worshipped their gods throughout their history at communal and individual levels. At the individual level, a person or a family offered prayers at home for blessings or food, while communally, groups of people would congregate for a communal celebration (James, 2004).
Their beliefs for gods were held with respect. For instance, they believed in Vesta, the goddess who protected the earth and showed honor to her by throwing small pieces of cake to the fire. Other forms of worship to the god of agriculture for massive harvest include offerings of wine and corn meal at the graves where family members are buried (James, 2004).
To sum up, it is evident that the Romans have a body of creation myths that explains their origin, values and the kind of worship they have today.
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The Roman gods are important deities among the Romans due to the unique roles each play in life and on earth. Additionally, the various versions of the myths are almost unanimously agreeing that the gods created the universe and that it is part of the creation and demands respect and honor from human beings.
Arena, V. (2007). The myths of Rome. Phoenix, 61(3/4), 375-377.
Flannery, F. (2006). Religions of the ancient world: A Guide. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 126(1), 125-127.
Helmer, D. (2006). The Lincoln library of Greek and Roman mythology. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 46(1), 74-75.
James, Stuart. (2004). A Comprehensive Dictionary if Gods, Goddesses, Demigods, and Other Subjects in Greek and Roman Mythology. Reference Reviews, 18(8), 11-12.
Lin, Y. (2010). Separation of heaven and man and oneness of heaven and man: the relationship between divine and man from genesis 1-3 and creation myths in ancient Chinese texts. Journal of Sino – Western Communications, 2(1), 1-11.